Lotoski lights the lamp
Seven goals in three games for midget AAA Raiders' forward
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014 06:00 am
Taylor Lotoski is packing heat as the top gun for the St. Albert Raiders.
Lotoski fired seven of the midget AAA team’s 12 goals in the last three games as the Raiders (16-11-5) secured a playoff spot with five out of a possible six points.
The scoring spree on home ice started with four goals in the 4-2 win over the Sherwood Park Kings and continued last weekend with a pair in the 5-1 decision against the Lethbridge Hurricanes and he sniped his 10th goal of the season in the 3-3 draw with the SEAC Tigers of Medicine Hat.
Lotoski, 18, only had two goals prior to his breakout performance Feb. 2 against the Kings.
“This year it’s been difficult scoring goals for me but that Sherwood Park game really kick-started me to be an offensive threat in the past three games,” Lotoski told the Gazette at Monday’s practice. “Those four goals really helped me push myself to help produce for the team.”
He dismantled the Kings (17-8-8) with a shorthanded tally, two at even strength and an empty-net marker. His last three goals, all in the third, were unassisted.
“After scoring the second one I was like, ‘Well, this is good. This could really turn into something really big,’ and then they kept just coming,” said the left winger. “A few lucky bounces and good plays from my teammates really helped me get all four.”
Last season Lotoski lit the lamp five times in a game for the midget AA St. Albert Blues while compiling 25 goals and 40 points in 31 games.
With the offensively-challenged Raiders he ranks third in scoring with 17 points in 31 games and is one of only two players with double-digit goal totals.
Lotoski credits linemates’ Conner Lukan and Luc Smith for the offensive turnaround in the last three games.
“We’ve contributed a lot of offence to the team as well as defence. I don’t think we’ve been minus so far so that's good,” said the Grade 12 Bellerose Composite High School student.
The six-foot-two Lotoski is a banger who also kills penalties.
“I’m a big-body forward so I finish my checks and do whatever it takes for the team,” he said. “I take pucks hard to the net and use my size to my advantage.”
Saturday against the Hurricanes (9-19-6) Lotoski opened and closed the scoring, Wyatt Williams potted one goal and added two assists and Kole Bryks and Smith notched singles.
The Raiders outshot the penalty-riddled Hurricanes 27-19. It was 5-0 when Pat Dea lost his shutout bid with 2:08 to play as the visitors struck on the power play.
Sunday the Tigers (8-20-5) scored three times in a 1:56 span in the third to lead 3-1 before Lotoski found the back of the net and Parker AuCoin’s power-play goal evened the score. Ethan Lazaro’s team-leading 12th goal opened the scoring in the second.
Shots were 32-26 for the Raiders and Dea (12-4-4, 2.02 GAA) was in net.
“We kind of let down a little bit in the third period against Medicine Hat but we rallied back as a team. It was a good character tie,” Lotoski said.
The Raiders are 2-0-2 after losing twice on the road and 5-3-2 in their last 10 games.
“We want to keep our momentum swinging going into the playoffs,” Lotoski said. “Sherwood Park was one of our more complete games so far this season, where everyone was contributing and everyone was a factor and I think that set us up for this weekend.
“Our team has been getting better and better. Mistake-wise we’ve been making less mistakes and really making good decisions. We’re definitely, if not at our peak, about to hit our peak for communication and team efforts.”
After clinching the sixth and final playoff spot in the north the Raiders are two points back of the fifth-place Southside Athletic Club (18-12-3) with a game in hand. They close out league play with three games in three days against the UFA Bisons (20-10-3) Saturday in Strathmore, Calgary Buffaloes (21-9-4) Sunday in the Cow Town and Monday against the Grande Prairie Storm (11-15-6) at 1 p.m. at Akinsdale Arena.
“We want to catch Southside and make our way up in the standings,” Lotoski said.
The Raiders will only go as far as their defence will take them. The No. 1 defensive team in the north with 74 goals against ranks second overall in the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League.
“That is our strongest asset so that’s what we have to stick with in the playoffs. That’s our mentality; stay defensively and then the offence will kick in afterwards.”